When asked what he was looking for in a winning movie, the Jury President Jiri Menzel (director of the
great, bittersweet 1968 Czech New Wave classic “Closely Watched Trains”) said “I
hope to find a nice film about people." Sorry, wrong
festival. As noted below, what you’ll find here is a lot of alcoholism, child
abuse, intractable depression, violence against women, dead cats, faux cynicism, genuine
cynicism, corrupt officials and overall despair.
Nonetheless, the jury selected a
winner and a runner-up. Taking the Golden Alexander and 37,000 euros for first
prize is “The Red Awn,” by Chinese director Cai Shangjun, about a man who returns home after a long
exile to find that his wife has died, his son is estranged and he’s been
officially declared dead. The Silver
Alexander and 22,000 euros for second place goes to Spiros Stathoulopoulos’s “PVC-1,” which is, to quote the festival program, “the
true story of an innocent woman’s struggle for survival after she is fitted
with a collar-bomb.” The International Film Critics Jury - aka FIPRESCI - whose niceness I can
vouch for from personal experience, picked
this one too. Both screened too late for me to see, but judging from the
descriptions they seem very nice indeed: round up the kids and see them for the
I did see “Autumn Ball,"
which won a Best Director nod (but apparently includes no money) for Veiko Ounpuu. I
would have chosen it as the best of the 15 films I saw, a nice balance of
horror and mirth, despair and glee, with some truly uproarious and outrageous
black comic moments. Same goes for Balabanov’s “Cargo 200,” which was not among
the films in competition. But it would
have gotten my Silver Alexander if I had one to give.